His younger contemporary George Seferis meant it admiringly when he said, 'Outside his poetry Cavafy does not exist.' This doesn’t give Ersi Sotiropoulos a lot to work with for her biographical novel...which makes the book’s triumph all the more impressive. Poised on the cusp of change, Ms. Sotiropoulos’s Cavafy is a memorably unstable character, a human pendulum swinging from arrogance to insecurity, from self-loathing to exhilaration. His querulous inner monologues draw from his impressions of the city and particularly its young men, his memories, his poetry—the novel seamlessly integrates lines from some of his best known work—and his contentious relationship with his influences ... The fiercest passion in What’s Left of the Night is homoerotic attraction, and Ms. Sotiropoulos suggests that Cavafy’s artistic transformation hinged on his ability to take possession of his desires and redirect their energy toward poetry. Aided by a shimmering translation from the Greek by Karen Emmerich, the novel is as sensual as it is erudite, a stirringly intimate exploration of the private, earthy place where creation commences.
Beautifully reconstructing three days in Paris, Ersi Sotiropoulos traverses the complex hallways of the poet Constantine Cavafy’s mind ... A poignant meditation on the origins of an individual’s art ... Karen Emmerich’s translation renders Cavafy’s internal strife—the driving force of the novel—in melodic, anguished, well-researched prose. Equal parts a character study and a treatise on the creative mind, the novel boldly provokes questions about the relationship between an artist’s life and his art, specifically the quality of art that is born out of immense suffering ... Haunting and enthralling, What’s Left of the Night successfully fosters an almost mystical communion with Cavafy and his torment. Ultimately, pinpoints of light peek through the gloom and illuminate the refuge that art can offer.
A colorful fabric of Cavafy’s memories and reflections, Sotiropoulos’ speculative fiction may be too psychosexually intimate for some (Cavafy abashedly masturbates a few times), while others will relish its Proustian aspiration.